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Jewish Nation-State Law: Provisions, Objectives, and Implications

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Publish Date : 2018 Aug 27 12:02
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On July 19, the Right in the Zionist regime could eventually get the Jewish Nation-State Law passed by a vote of 62-55 after days of debate in the Knesset. The law is considered a "Basic Law" in the Zionist regime, which means that it is stricter and less flexible than ordinary laws and cannot be altered easily.
Vahideh Ahmadi

On July 19, the Right in the Zionist regime could eventually get the Jewish Nation-State Law passed by a vote of 62-55 after days of debate in the Knesset. The law is considered a "Basic Law"[1] in the Zionist regime, which means that it is stricter and less flexible than ordinary laws and cannot be altered easily.
The law's provisions, supporters, and opponents
The Jewish Nation-State Law has 11 provisions regarding Israel being the nation-state of the Jewish people, national symbols, the city of Jerusalem (Beit-ul-Moqaddas) being the capital of Israel, Hebrew being the official language and the Arabic language having a special status, Israel being open to Jewish immigration and the gathering of the exiled, preserving the cultural, historical and religious legacy of the Jewish people among the Jewish diaspora and supporting their civil rights, the state viewing Jewish settlement as a national value and laboring to encourage and promote its establishment and development, the Hebrew calendar being the official calendar of Israel and the secular calendar serving as an official calendar alongside it, national holidays on religious occasions, Saturday being the official day of rest, and the fact that the law shall not be amended, unless by another Basic Law passed by the majority of the Knesset members.   
The first article of the law says: "Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people in which the State of Israel was established. The State of Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, in which it fulfills its natural, religious, and historic right to self-determination. The fulfillment of the right of national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people." It is also stipulated in the law that the "unified and complete" city of Jerusalem (Beit-ul-Moqaddas), including both the eastern and western parts, is the capital of the regime. According to the law, the Hebrew calendar is the official calendar and the Jewish holidays and Saturday are the official days of rest.  
Part of the law about the status of the Arabic language, which seems to have been included to quell countless protests by representatives of the "Arabs of 48" in the Knesset and calm public opinion, says: "The Arabic language has a special status in the state; the regulation of the Arabic language in state institutions or when facing them will be regulated by law. This clause does not change the status given to the Arabic language before the Basic Law was created."
Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister of the Zionist regime and chairman of the right-wing Likud party who had tried hard to get the law passed, called its passage "a defining moment in the history of Zionism and the history of the State of Israel". The moment that Netanyahu described as a historic moment for Zionism was more pivotal for him as it provided a favorable escape route for him and his family out of financial corruption cases that had endangered his political life and had become a headache for him. Pleased with the positive prospects of the law, which can boost his popularity among people at least for a short time, he claimed, "We enshrined in [the] law the basic principle of our existence. Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people that respects the individual rights of all its citizens. This is our state—the Jewish state. In recent years, there have been some who have attempted to put this in doubt, to undercut the core of our being. Today, we made it law: This is our nation, language, and flag."
Israel's prime minister is making such claims while the leftists, the Druze, post-Zionists, many legal experts and intellectuals, Jewish organizations, and US-based lobbying groups such as the Jewish Federations of North America, the Anti-Defamation League, and American Jewish Committee, have opposed the law and regard it as being against democracy and a democratic society that leaders of the Zionist regime had claimed they wanted to establish. While supporters of the law believe that there will now be a stronger emphasis on Israel's Jewish identity compared to the past, its detractors consider it to be against the Israeli Declaration of Independence, which defends the democratic nature of the regime and reiterates that it belongs to all citizens. That is why even those who voted in favor of the law have acknowledge that the decision was made hastily and need to be revised. Naftali Bennett, the regime's extremist education minister who was once a staunch advocate of efforts to pass the Jewish Nation-State Law, said its shortcoming is the fact that it is damaging to the Druze minority, and along with other officials such as Israel's Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and many members of the Knesset and Cabinet have called for it to be amended in a way that would heal the rift. 
The disregard for the minorities residing in the occupied territories, particularly the Druze, who undergo military service and are more loyal to the regime than Muslim or Christian Arabs was so flagrant that the regime's prime minister was left with no choice but to meet with their leaders. In the meeting, Netanyahu pledged "profound commitment" to the 100,000-strong Druze community and said that the recently passed law would not discriminate against them.
In addition to the uncertain status of minorities such as the Druze, the law contradicts the idea of creating a new national identity in Israel through eliminating the existing gaps and building a democratic society conducive to coexistence of the majority and minorities, which is being seriously pursued by people like Reuven Rivlin, the regime's president. This demonstrates a lack of consensus on the law among Israel's political, social, and intellectual communities. In a speech at the high-level Herzliya Conference, Rivlin spoke about the creation of a new identity in Israel, saying, "One thing is clear, the demographic processes that are restructuring or redesigning the shape of Israeli society, have, in fact, created a 'new Israeli order'. A reality in which there is no longer a clear majority, nor clear minority groups." The concept of a "new Israeli order" was meant to offer a solution to racial, religious, and ethnic gaps in the Zionist regime—an Achilles' heel that has constantly put Israel's national identify in doubt.
US President Donald Trump's ill-advised green light to and his embracing of all the excessive and unilateral demands of the regime, particularly those of the ruling party, has made right-wing politicians flustered and blind to the realities of society, politics, and their surroundings in such a way that it seems they are no longer showing any consideration for the Palestinian community—not only the "Arabs of 48" but also those in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The new law and the persistence of corrosive ambiguity toward the Palestinians
After the Oslo Accords and despite the insistence of the Palestinian National Authority that Israel must abide by the provisions of the signed agreements and that an independent Palestinian state must be created with East Beit-ul-Moqaddas as its capital, the Israelis not only did not fulfill their commitments within the framework of peace negotiations but also proposed "one state for two nations" instead of two states. When the peace negotiations reached a stalemate, Netanyahu insisted on the recognition of a Jewish state or a Jewish state law, which has now been passed by the Knesset, as a precondition for the resumption of talks.  The question that was raised after this precondition was set and still persists is what approach the Israeli regime has exactly adopted toward the Palestinians given its insistence that it must be recognized as an exclusively Jewish state. 
If there is a focus on "one state for two nations" proposal, the new law will seriously challenge its credibility rather than facilitating its implementation. It goes without saying that the Palestinians and even mediating countries and bodies, including the Europeans, regional and international organizations, and the Arabs—who have at least expressed verbal support for Palestine—will not accept the "one state for two nations" proposal—which, after the approval of the new law, would mean recognizing the Arabs as second-class citizens in the regime— and consider it to be in contravention of international law and the established norms of democratic societies.  
It can be said that the implementation of the "one state for two nations" proposal is almost as, if not more, complicated than before after the passage of the new law, which views Jewish settlement as a national value and encourages and promotes its establishment and development. That is why the European Union, which is one of the ardent supporters of a two-state solution, has stated that the recently passed law prevents the implementation of such a solution and exacerbates the situation. What is clear is that there is no will, however weak, on the part of Israel to withdraw from the West Bank and change its approach on the issue. Rather, construction of more settlement homes has been put on the agenda under various pretexts. An order to build 400 settlement units in eastern Ramallah that was issued after the approval of the new law and under the pretext of confronting Palestinian operations against settlers, shows that settlement building, which is pursued with disregard for the Palestinians' demands, is as sacred and important as the identity of the Jewish state for Israeli leaders.
Objectives and implications of the Jewish Nation-State Law
Amid the ambiguity and confusion surrounding the fate of the Palestinians who are captive to Israel's increasingly excessive demands, another issue that should be discussed is why such a law was adopted. It seems that the main reasons for the approval of the law at this juncture include Netanyahu's personal motive to improve his deteriorating status following corruption charges and his desire to strengthen the position of his Likud party and please extremist nationalists and religious figures in a coalition of government against other parties. Meanwhile, Trump's tenure in the White House has more than ever emboldened Netanyahu to take such actions. Despite widespread protests by opponents, it seems that Netanyahu has somehow succeeded in achieving his objectives because he has quenched the Jewish community's thirst for more security and assertion of their supremacy over the Palestinians as well as regional and international opponents and has once against presented himself as a strong and experienced politician to residents of the occupied territories and religious extremists. However, another important question still persists: What practical impact will the new law have on power relations and movements in the Zionist regime?
Although the approval of the Jewish Nation-State Law received widespread media coverage, it remains to be seen whether it will bring about tangible changes in existing relations within the regime or not. To answer this question, it should be taken into consideration that Israel was established based on the vision of Theodor Herzl, who believed that the creation of a Jewish state could enhance the security of the Jews. Power relations as well as the status and stance of political and social movements and strata in the regime have been shaped within the same framework. The Jews were placed in the top economic, political and social strata, while minorities such as the "Arabs of 48" were deprived of many advantages offered to the Jews, and the government has been reluctantly dealing with them. Core policies toward other minorities, including the Druze and Christians, have been determined based on the level of their loyalty to the Jewish state and its founding principles. Suppression, killing time, and building more settlement homes have been a tenet of the Zionists' approach on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and there has been no will to change the situation neither before nor after the approval of the law. As an Israeli newspaper put it, the new law is like a hologram because all of its provisions were already being implemented. However, the practical impact of the law depends on additional laws that are expected to be passed to implement its provisions as well as the will of Israeli leaders to enforce it.
It seems the main impact the Jewish Nation-State Law has had is that it debunked the claim by the Zionists that they are committed to all the principles of democracy. Despite the expression of support by the advocates of the law for democracy and its principles as part of the identity of the Zionist regime and their insistence that it does not contradict Israel's democratic nature, the new law has shown that no one in the regime is making efforts toward dealing with minorities without discrimination and that they have no strong belief in this essential principle of democracy.

[1]- Unlike ordinary laws, Israel's Basic Laws can only be changed by a supermajority vote in the Knesset. The Basic laws are intended to form the foundation of the regime's Constitution, which has not been formally written yet.  

“ Jewish Nation-State Law: Provisions, Objectives, and Implications ”